Over the past three days, drama of the highest caliber has taken place in Poland and the Ukraine. Teams that were favored to go through have gone home and teams that seemed to have the slightest of chances to go through have lived to fight another day.
Group A was absolutely flipped on its head when the Czech and the Greeks both won on the last day of pool play pushing both squads into the quarterfinals. The Czechs looked very convincing in defeating a desperate Polish team by a score of 1-0. Petr Jiracek scored his 2nd goal of the tournament allowing the Czechs to continue on. The Greeks needed a win and a ton of help to go through and they were able to complete the dream by defeating Pool A favorite Russia 1-0 on the final day of pool play. Giorgios Karagounis scored his most important goal for the national side in his career right before halftime. The Greeks were able to hold off the massive pressure that Russia placed on them in the 2nd half to advance. The Czechs win the group and the Greeks advance as the number 2 seed. Russia and Poland go home when both looked promising earlier in pool play.
Group B’s drama was just as riveting. Germany, a winner of its first two games, was not secure in advancing going into the last day. A win or a draw would allow them to advance and the Germans again played stellar football in defeating a Denmark squad which had everything to play for, by a score of 2-1. German Lukas Podolski opened his account for the tournament only to be matched by Michael Krohn-Delhi for the Danes in the 1st half. The 2nd half was a battle of wills as the Germans were able to push ahead thanks to a counterattacking goal by Lars Bender with about 10 minutes left.
The game of the day came as the Portuguese defeated the Dutch by a score of 2-1. Cristiano Ronaldo answered many of his critics, delivering both goals for the Portuguese after they fell behind early to the Dutch courtesy of a goal by Rafael Van der Vaart. Ronaldo was a man possessed as he was absolutely scintillating for the entire 90 minutes. He made the Dutch defense quiver every time he possessed the ball in space and created multiple chances. The Portuguese have been much maligned over the years for poor performances when it really counted and they finally answered the bell and will advance finishing 2nd in the group.
The Dutch will go home extremely disappointed after losing all 3 games. They were a pre-tournament favorite of many prognosticators (including myself) and for them to not win a game is unconscionable. People lose their jobs in the Netherlands over performances like this.
You feel bad for the Danes, who were not expected to do much in this group, but looked very good throughout pool play. They had every chance to advance and being as young as they are, will be a team to be reckoned with in the future.
Group C today saw two more teams go home as Croatia joined Ireland in being eliminated. Spain and Italy will proceed to the quarter final rounds after both teams put in workmanlike displays of toughness today in winning their last pool games. Spain got an 88th minute goal from substitute Jesus Navas to defeat the game Croatian squad by a score of 1-0. Croatia had a couple of chance including a golden opportunity off of the head of Ivan Rakitic in the 59th minute that was brilliantly saved by Spanish goalie Iker Casillas. Italy received goals from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli that helped see off a determined Ireland squad who wanted to go out of Euro 2012 on a high note. Unfortunately, the Italians needed this game more and dominated the vast majority of it seeing the Irish off 2-0. The Spanish win the group and the Italians will advance as the number 2 seed out of the group.
Two quarterfinal games are already set. The Czech Republic will take on Portugal on Thursday, June 21st in the first quarterfinal matchup. The Germans will take on the Greeks on Friday, June 22nd in the second quarterfinal matchup.
Spain and Italy will wait to see what happens tomorrow as 3 teams will battle for the final 2 spots in the quarterfinals. France, England and Ukraine are all in action tomorrow with England-Ukraine being the marquee game of the day. Wayne Rooney returns for the English as they seek to advance by defeating the host nation Ukraine.
About the Author
Written by Michael Jenkins
I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. Graduated from THE University of Arizona. I now reside part time in San Francisco, CA. I am a diehard Phoenix Coyotes fan (season ticket holder since Day 1) and a diehard Chelsea FC fan. I am passionate, energetic and highly grateful to get the opportunity to work in this business again.